State Poised to Plunge Into Ossipee Lake Milfoil Fight

Ossipee — January 29, 2005 — N.H. Department of Environmental Services has plunged in on a pilot plan to hand-pick invasive milfoil in Leavitt Bay, according to a group of Ossipee lake property owners and environmentalists.The Ossipee Lake Alliance announced Monday that N.H. DES would split a proposed $10,000 effort with the town of Ossipee, and as a state study, rate the success of professional milfoil divers against conventional chemical treatments. An aquatic herbicide treatment last spring failed to destroy a Leavitt Bay infestation, the Alliance said.

In an offer letter pending Governor’s Council approval, N.H. DES agreed to pay $5,000, subject to the town of Ossipee matching its contribution with its own $5,000, according to an Alliance press release. The group’s president asked selectmen in a letter last week, to tap into a milfoil contingency fund established by voters last year, the release said.

“State funds are limited and the application process is incredibly competitive,” Alliance president Susan Marks said. “We worked hard to secure as much state funding as possible, and we’re grateful that DES has agreed to support this effort and make it a pilot program for the state.”

“Milfoil has infested more than fifty bodies of water in the state,” according to the release, and “twenty-three lake associations made requests totaling $185,000 for the state’s $60,000 budget for milfoil control in 2005.”

Last fall, the Alliance and the town of Freedom joined in what some said was the largest attack on milfoil using professional divers ever in the state. Divers reaped over 10,000 pounds of the invasive weed from Danforth Pond last fall over the course of two months. The underwater harvest, which will pick up again in the spring when divers return to scout evidence of possible re-infestation, cost Freedom taxpayers $8,000. State funding was not available, according to the Alliance.

Volunteers should be able to bend over and throttle some milfoil plants when the state lowers water levels in the fall, Marks said, however it would only be a stopgap, she said, and towns may need to commit to a more aggressive, and expensive battle plan.

“We hope there will be state money available in 2006, but we can’t count on it. We’ve recommended that Ossipee continue to put money aside so it can be tapped as needed. Unless the State dramatically increases its funding, local communities are going to have to anticipate paying some or all of the cost of milfoil control,” Marks said.

An infestation in Portsmouth Cove, between Leavitt Bay and Broad Bay, found by volunteer weed watchers in October, is outside the scope of the proposed $10,000 joint project. It addresses only Leavitt Bay and Phillips Brook, according to the Alliance.

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